It was with great sadness I heard of the death of David Page, one of the greatest entertainers Australia has produced in recent times. He was a famous child singer at the age of 14, an actor, musician, composer, dancer, playwright and story teller.
He was also a proud Nunukul and Munaldjali man from south-east Queensland. He was not afraid to admit his homosexuality. He was also the brother of Stephen and Russell Page of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, where he had enjoyed a long and rich artistic career.
I first heard of David when a friend invited me to see a play at the small Queensland University of Technology theatre in Brisbane in the 1990s. The play was called Page 8. I had never heard of the play or the actor, but I went along out of loyalty to my friend.
It was brilliant, the most wonderful theatrical experience I have ever enjoyed.
It was a one-man show featuring David and combining storytelling, singing, dancing, film and drag. It celebrated David's life as the eighth child of Roy and Doreen Page from Mt Gravatt in Brisbane. It told of his experiences growing up in a housing commission house, his family life, musical studies, early return to Beaudesert to look after his aunt and uncle, who had developed dementia, and finally his career taking off as a drag queen — and much more.
The play was funny, sad, tragic and hilarious. Magical. Page 8 was co-written and directed by his brother Stephen. I can still visualise the set and David racing around the stage in many different costumes. It really resonated with a huge audience, both Black and white.
David started his career at the Sunnybank Hotel in a talent quest when he was barely a teenager. WEA records signed him up in a record deal, where he sang all over Brisbane as Little Davey Page, with costumes made by his Aunty Betty.
But it is his musical composition for Bangarra that will be his legacy. He invented a pioneering soundtrack that combined traditional language, song and instrumentation with the sounds of electronic music, hip hop and classical music, as well as using sounds from nature. David composed 27 scores out of 35 major works for the Bangarra Dance Company.
He was also a talented actor, starring in The Sunshine Club in 1999 at the Queensland Theatre Company, in the Belvoir's Yibiyung in 2008, and The Man from Mukinupin in 2009 and the Sydney Theatre Company Bloodland in 2012.
David also composed for the Australian Ballet's Alchemy (1997) and collaborated with Elena Kats Chernin on Amalgamate in 2007. David's television credits include scores for Heartland, Pride part of the Seven Deadly Sins series – and Poison for the ABC, as well as themes for Songlines, Living Black and Pioneers of Love for SBS.
This is just a smattering of his performances and accolades. Australia has lost a really great performer. The Page family must be very proud to have produced so many talented artists for the rest of us to remember. Our heartfelt condolences go to his family and friends.